The Times editorial board surveyed Washington’s Congressional delegation to gauge members’ support for Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation.
Congress must ensure that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is able to complete his investigation.
Washington’s 12-member delegation is mostly supportive, based on a survey conducted by this editorial board.
But the state’s four Republicans are being disappointingly partisan and refused to answer specific questions about how they would defend Mueller. None would commit to supporting either of two proposals in Congress to protect the special counsel and two, including U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the fourth highest ranking member of the Republican caucus, did not respond to our questions.
Mueller’s investigation, to determine the extent of Russia’s attack on the 2016 election and any involvement with President Donald Trump’s campaign, is arguably the federal government’s most important task right now.
At stake is the integrity of democracy in the United States.
If the U.S. is to continue being a model of freedom and democracy around the planet, we must demonstrate that our system of government is strong, resilient and self-correcting.
America’s global leadership is being deliberately undermined by Russia, most blatantly with the attacks on the 2016 election.
President Trump’s limp response, threats to get Mueller fired and his shocking refusal to implement congressionally approved sanctions against Russia highlight the need for an independent investigation supported by Congress.
The importance of this task is not reduced by the administration’s decision this week to expel 60 Russians. That move, which resulted in the closure of Russia’s consulate in Seattle, is meant to protest an apparent poison attack by Russia in Britain.
The U.S. had to show solidarity with its greatest European ally. But there is still much work to be done addressing Russia’s potentially more impactful attack on American soil.
Congress must emphatically support Mueller’s investigation to ensure the country knows the truth about what happened in 2016 and can fix any vulnerabilities that are revealed.
Here’s how Washington’s delegation responded to three questions we posed. Some responses are edited for length.
- What can Congress do to ensure Mueller is able to complete his investigation free from White House interference?
- Do you support either of the bills (Special Counsel Independence Protection Act and Special Counsel Integrity Act) that are intended to protect the special counsel from being arbitrarily fired, requiring judicial review of whether the firings are justified?
- What would you do if President Trump takes action to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and/or Mueller?
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D), 202-224-2621
1. Congress should immediately pass legislation to prevent the special counsel from being fired without cause or court review. But the most immediate and effective thing that could be done today would be for the Republican leaders of the House and Senate to make absolutely clear to the President that firing the special counsel would result in the gravest consequences.
2. Yes, I would support both, but I prefer the Special Counsel Independence Protection Act (Graham-Booker) because its safeguards are stronger.
3. Our work shouldn’t wait until that moment — we need Republicans, who control both the House and the Senate — to let us vote right now on legislation that would make it very clear to President Trump that blocking Mueller from continuing to follow the facts, wherever they may lead, is unacceptable — and the firing of the special counsel would be a clear act of obstruction of justice. While it’s difficult to predict the circumstances surrounding the firing of either Rosenstein or Mueller, I am prepared to use the full force of my office to help ensure Congress fulfills its duty to be a check on the presidency.
U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D), 202-224-3441
1. Partisan politics should not influence national security or law enforcement matters. We must ensure that we get to the bottom of what happened with support from a bipartisan coalition.
2. I support bipartisan legislation to protect the Special Counsel.
3. If President Trump does attempt to fire Rosenstein and orders Mueller fired, it will cause a Constitutional crisis.
U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Medina, 1st Cong. District), 202-225-6311
1. I am deeply concerned by the broadening revelations about Russia’s interference in our elections, and I strongly believe we must follow the facts wherever they lead in order to protect the integrity of our democracy. Any attempt by a foreign government to influence or undermine our elections is unacceptable, and I support a full and open investigation into any and all effects that Russian hacking may have had on our election and potential ties between those hackers and the current administration.
2. I support the Special Counsel Integrity Act and I am a co-sponsor of H. Res. 111, which would direct the Department of Justice to provide the House of Representatives with any information relevant to an inquiry into President Trump and his associates’ conflicts of interest, ethical violations and Russian ties.
3. The American people deserve to know if Russia has any undue influence on the Trump administration. The lack of transparency, and blatant interference from this president, merit an independent investigation. This is not about Democrats and Republicans, this is about protecting our democracy from attacks and upholding American values on the world stage.
1. Congress must continue to keep the pressure on the president to allow for the investigation to finish. In December, I joined my colleagues on a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein in support of Special Counsel Mueller. The president’s rhetoric questioning the validity of the Special Counsel investigation is harmful. Americans deserve answers on any illegal activities that took place surrounding the 2016 campaign.2. I have some concerns about unintended consequences of the two bills before Congress, but I want to make crystal clear that President Trump cannot and should not fire or order the firing of Special Counsel Mueller.3. Congress has a Constitutional responsibility to serve as a check and balance on the president. It is unimaginable that the president would seek to intervene, discredit, obstruct or terminate the Special Counsel’s investigation. If he were to move forward with terminating the Special Counsel or Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, Congress would need to consider all possible repercussions, including impeachment.
U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Vancouver, 3rd District), 202-225-3536
Would not say how she’ll support Mueller. Responded only with statement: “Mr. Mueller must be allowed to complete his independent investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence U.S. elections and provide his conclusion to the American people; they deserve to know the full extent of Russia’s actions. Those interested in using this investigation as a political tool are doing the American people a disservice, and those seeking to end it before it is complete are doing the same. Jaime hasn’t closed the door on any option to determine the full truth about Russia’s efforts to influence the U.S. elections and she will act appropriately as events unfold.”
U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Sunnyside, 4th District), 202-225-5816
After repeated inquiries, he did not respond. Would not say if or how he’d support Mueller.
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Spokane, 5th District), 202-225-2006
After repeated inquiries, she did not respond. Would not say if or how she’d support Mueller.
U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor, 6th District), 202-225-5916
1. I trust that Robert Mueller, a patriot who served under presidents from both parties, will carry out his investigation objectively. I think an important first step Congress should take is to provide him with legal protection. There are a few bills that would do that, and I support them.
2. Yes. This is common sense.
3. Firing the Special Counsel or the deputy attorney general would create a Constitutional crisis. To prevent one, Congress should step up now to pass legislation like those mentioned in question two. If this happened, I would demand Congress create an independent commission that hires Special Counsel Mueller to finish his investigation so that his work sees the light of day.
U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Seattle, 7th District), 202-225-3106
1. President Trump has repeatedly attempted to undermine Robert Mueller’s investigation, questioning Mueller’s credibility, impartiality, and drawing “red lines” around his investigation. He has also shamed and threatened Attorney General Jeff Sessions for not being loyal enough because he appointed a special counsel. The attacks on the special counsel have increased as the investigation has gotten closer to the White House.
2. I absolutely support both of the bills.
3. Either of these would necessitate immediate action. On the Judiciary Committee, Democrats are considering a number of legal and legislative options to challenge such actions. We also need to ensure that all the files and documentation from the investigation are immediately protected. We are also working now to reach out to Republicans and try to ensure that any efforts we take are bipartisan and centered on the need for members of both parties to step forward and protect our democracy. Finally, we are working with advocates around the country to ensure that we all understand that it is not only the firing of Mueller or Rosenstein that are problems — it is also the firing of Jeff Sessions or shaming him to resign that would also allow the President to then do a recess appointment of an Attorney General who could then end the Special Counsel’s investigation. We must continue to put pressure on Republicans in the House and Senate to take action immediately instead of waiting for this to happen.
U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Auburn, 8th District), 202-225-7761
Would not say how he’ll support Mueller. Responded only with statement: “During my time as a detective, I followed every lead that could provide answers in the cases I investigated. In the same way, Robert Mueller must follow all leads that he views important to his investigation. The American people deserve a complete and thorough investigation.”
U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Tacoma, 9th District), 202-225-8901
1. Currently, the president can’t fire Special Counsel Mueller. But what he can do is he can instruct the attorney general, or in this case, since Jeff Sessions recused himself from this investigation, the deputy Attorney General, Mr. Rosenstein, he can tell the deputy AG to fire Mueller. If Rosenstein doesn’t, the president can fire Rosenstein until he finds someone at the DOJ who will fire Mueller. This is exactly what Richard Nixon did with the Special Prosecutor back in the 1970s.
2. I am a co-sponsor of the Special Counsel Independence Protection Act.
3. I support prohibiting the president from having any way to get at the special prosecutor. Mueller needs to be able to do his job. What happens if the President goes down this route? This would clearly be an obstruction of justice and a matter critical to the United States. And if that was the case, the president should be impeached. But I hope it doesn’t come to that. I hope the President lets Robert Mueller do his job. It’s critical that he does it. Even independent of how it may impact people associated with the Trump campaign, the Russians aren’t stopping. They are planning on interfering in our 2018 election, they interfere in our political decisions. They try to spread fake news stories to undermine policies that they think would be contrary to their best interests. We need to fight back against that. The first step would be understanding what they are doing.
U.S. Rep. Denny Heck (D-Olympia, 10th District), 202-225-9740
1. Congress must put protections in place to insulate the Mueller investigation. The president attacking the special counsel by name is the latest in a string of attempts to discourage law enforcement agencies and distract from this important investigation. Special Counsel Mueller has already uncovered plenty of criminal behavior committed by Russian nationals and Trump campaign operatives, and we cannot allow any other criminal behavior to go unaddressed.
2. I am a co-sponsor of the Special Counsel Independence Protection Act, which would require a panel of three judges to approve the ordered firing of a special counsel before the order could take effect. If either bill were to come to the floor for a vote, I would vote in favor. Leaders and members of both parties — including myself — have publicly stated that the special counsel should be given the opportunity to complete his investigation in full. Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell should allow our body to vote on common sense due process laws to ensure no unjust removal of a special counsel occurs.
3. When I come back home from Washington, D.C., I cannot tell you how many people come up to me and express their concern that President Trump might make the irrational decision to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Bob Mueller, and effectively end the special counsel investigation. Many have also called and written to my office about this. It isn’t a partisan worry about the Republicans being in control, it’s genuine concern about the direction our country is heading. They understand that our commitment to the rule of law is at stake here. I am encouraged by the words of warning that are coming from President Trump’s own party about how this would cause a Constitutional crisis and we may have to start impeachment proceedings if it occurred.
Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Donna Gordon Blankinship, Brier Dudley, Mark Higgins, Melissa Santos, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).